U.S. World Cup broadcast sets ratings records for ESPN, Univision

World Cup fans celebrate at Arena Amazonia

We’re still early in the competition, but we’re already seeing some records, as Sunday’s U.S. World Cup broadcast sets ratings records for ESPN and Univision, outperforming the NBA Finals and almost every World Series game.

Sunday’s match between the United States and Portugal was perfectly timed: the United States started the World Cup with a strong comeback against Ghana and had received a slew of international media attention about how a win would put the squad into the next round. Plus, a late-afternoon Sunday start pushed the game into prime time.

For ESPN, it was the most-viewed soccer match in the United States ever, across all networks, averaging 18,220,000 viewers based on a 9.6 HH US rating. That made it the most-watched non-football broadcast on the cable giant. It surpassed the previous high of 17,975,000 viewers for the 1999 Women’s World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC, and broke the ESPN record for most-watched soccer match, set by the aforementioned Ghana-U.S. World Cup broadcast. In addition, 490,000 viewers watched the U.S. World Cup broadcast on the WatchESPN streaming service.

Washington, D.C., led all markets for ESPN’s U.S. World Cup broadcast with a 13.3 rating, followed by Columbus (12.6), New York (12.5), Boston (11.5), Hartford/New Haven (11.3), Providence (11.2), Atlanta (11.1), Baltimore (11.0), Norfolk (10.5), Orlando (10.5) and Sacramento (10.5).

Univision also recorded strong numbers — some 6.5 million households — watching the U.S. World Cup broadcast in Spanish. All together, that makes for some 24.7 million households tuned in for the match.

To put this into perspective: only one 2013 World Series game drew more fans (the last game of the Boston Red Sox/St. Louis Cardinals battle), and no NBA Finals game did, despite a pretty appealing matchup and storyline.

The hope is that the World Cup interest will translate into increased interest in MLS broadcasts. The seeds are there: the MLS ties for specific players were highlighted during the game broadcast.

Image by Surrey County Council via

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August Publications